"It's quite unprecedented," a retired Israeli diplomat told Reuters on Thursday, December 7.
"I can only assume he has yet to get to grips with the understandings that exist between us and the Americans."
During his confirmation hearing on Wednesday, December 6, Gates explained why Iran might be seeking a nuclear program.
"They (Iranians) are surrounded by powers with nuclear weapons: Pakistan to their east, the Russians to the north, the Israelis to the west and us in the Persian Gulf," he said.
The remark sparked immediately furor inside Israel.
Israeli news bulletins and the state-run radio said the new Pentagon chief breached the four-decade US "don't ask, don't tell" policy on Israel's nuclear arsenal.
According to recently declassified documents cited by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists magazine, former US President Richard Nixon knew Israel had developed nuclear weapons but opted against pressing it to come clean on the capability and accept international regulation.
US intelligence agencies routinely omit Israel from semiannual reports to Congress identifying countries developing weapons of mass destruction to protect the country from any economic or military sanctions.
A file photo of Israel's Dimona nuclear reactor
Israeli officials said the new unprecedented confirmation would not change their nuclear ambiguity policy.
"This announcement makes no fundamental difference," Deputy Premier Shimon Peres told Israel Radio, asserting Israel would keep mum on its nuclear arsenal.
"Israel won't say, or not say, whether we have nuclear weapons," he said.
"It suffices that one fears that we have them and that fear in itself constitutes an element of dissuasion."
Israel neither admits nor denies having nuclear weapons but most experts believe it has about up to 200 nuclear warheads.
Infrastructure Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer also pushed for keeping Israel's nuclear ambiguity policy.
"I have no idea why Gates made those remarks," he told public radio.
"But we have to continue to stick to the policy of ambiguity, which has nothing but advantages as it contributes to our power of deterrence."
Israel's nuclear reactor was built in the 1950s with the help of the French near the town of Dimona in the Negev Desert.
Recently declassified British documents showed London helped Israel obtain its nuclear bomb 40 years ago.
Mordechai Vanunu, a one-time technician at the nuclear plant, served 18 years in prison for blowing the whistle on Israel's nuclear program.
The Nuclear Threat Initiative, a US advocacy group co-created by CNN founder Ted Turner, believes Israel's nuclear arsenal "is comparable in quality and quantity to that of France and the United Kingdom."Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16